Let’s start first with a science lesson:
Your skin is acidic with PH level of around 5.5.
This is the ideal level for your skin to maintain its perfect state of being. What this also means is ideally the items you put on your skin should allow it to return to its natural state of 5.5 ph.
If you have seen “Fight Club” you know that this isn’t that case with soaps and cleansers. Cleansers tend to be alkaline based and this is great when breaking down oil. It helps liquify the sebum and dirt aka gross stuff clogging pores. While that sounds like a fluffin dream hold your horses before you drop reading this and go wash your face. WARNING: alkaline can be extremely caustic to your skin if used improperly (once again remember the scene from Fight Club?). I noticed there is a trend of using baking soda to wash your face. I’ve also noticed a trend of people getting caustic burns after this. So I thought I would jump in and save the day and your face with my nerdy knowledge.
Back in the day
When I went to esthetics school they taught the steps of a proper facial:
1)Remove eye and lip makeup with makeup remover.
2) Precleanse (this helped remove foundation and open the pores instead of grinding dirt into the skin when cleansing)
3) Cleanse (kind of like the hobbits second breakfast. Did I mention I love Lord of the rings?)
It varies from company to company and training to training but this is how I always have it in my head. When I began working for skincare companies they were trying to minimize the steps. They felt the consumer was in too much of a hurry to do majority of these steps. Just like the pointless All-in-one shampoo and conditioner, they began to combine products like moisturizer and sunscreen. However they noticed this combo left a heavy film on the skin they dwindled the physical SPF down. Moisturizers with sunscreen are found to be less effective now because of consumer needs. Put that in your back pocket and think about it.
Another major thing that changed was toners aka astringents. They were being eliminated or combined with facial wash or exfoliants. One less bottle to worry about. Consumers don’t want to be bothered.
Unfortunately, by removing this step you are not returning the skin to its original acidic state. You have allowed it to stay in the alkaline level which disrupts the skins natural process. It continues to “dissolve oil” which is the good oil. Yes oil is good for your skin. It protects from the harsh environment we live and work in.
Now let’s add all of this together. A large majority of people don’t exfoliate, treat or even moisturize. This skincare snowball wreaks havoc on the skin causing dryness/flakiness, abrasions/infections from the skin microcracking, pigmentation from said dryness affects, acne breakouts due to dryness and infections (whaattt? See prior posts if you’re confused) and last but not least PreMature Aging. I knew that would get your attention. Yup. That’s right. Fine lines and wrinkles are in the future.
Toner has been looked at as unnecessary simply because our “quick service” society we live in deems it so. Just like waiting in line frustrates the fluff out of us. We are too much of an instant gratification society. Our bodies, mind and bank accounts show it.
Tone tone tone
Now, you have to realize that not all toners are created equal. Let us not forget the scary world of astringents like Sea breeze (flesh burner, but doesn’t that mean it’s working? Nope.) and toners that are just scented water.
Fear not. Because I am a ingredient nerd I will do all the fancy work for you.
Break it down:
Toners should return the skin to a ph level that will allow your exfoliant, mask or serum (or all of the above) to penetrate and work to its fullest advantage. It prepares your skin for success. College prep for your face.
Some companies label chemical exfoliants as toners for example: Mario Badescu Glycolic Toner or Pixi Glow Tonic. These are awesome but you need to only use them as directed. Thinned skin is not cool and causes infections and pigmentation. If you have sensitive skin be cautious.
You technically should only be exfoliating 2-3 times a week at the most. This doesn’t mean you can use a different exfoliator everyday! Be gentle to your skin. Chemical exfoliants like Glycolic (10% or higher) and Salicylic (5% or higher) count as an exfoliant. *Free pass though- if your skin is dull and dry use the Glycolic toner once daily until it clears up! I usually use it in the morning, before moisturizing, to freshen my face for perfect makeup application.
Toners should have an acidic base. Witch hazel has a ph level of 3.3 and works great, plus it is fairly inexpensive. Make sure it is low alcohol, you can find the lowest alcohol content witch hazel at the natural grocery stores. Although alcohol is beneficial in opening the pores, it can dry the hell out of your face! Witch hazel is great for calming acne. I swear by it. *Helpful tip-never exfoliate ruptured acne. It’ll make it worse. Instead use witch hazel on cotton rounds and place them in the refrigerator for a bit. Then apply to face. You are welcome.
Rose water can be found at the natural stores or online. It’s smells beautiful and is packed full of vitamin c. Unfortunately it’s only a PH of 6-7 so it won’t bring your skin back to the desired state quickly but it’s a start. You can however use it as a face refresher during the day. Spritz it on your face to freshen makeup. Or before bed (after you have washed your face and done all the right steps) mist your face and lay back and relax. *Tip- if you must use it as a toner mix it with Witch hazel! Boom. You’re welcome.
Some companies still have awesome toners. Dermalogica, Origins, Mario Badescu, Clinique, Lancôme, Murad, No. 7, Burts Bees, etc are just a few I recommend. The nice thing is you can mix and match toners. It can be a toner for dry skin and you’re using an anti-aging face wash or maybe a calming toner with an acne fighting serum. Regardless you can customize!